Toronto FC coach Paul Mariner calls him a “difference-maker.” Montreal coach Jesse Marsch marvels at his attacking skills.
The fans will get to see former Italian international Marco Di Vaio for themselves Wednesday night as the Impact (5-8-3) host Toronto (1-10-2).
The 35-year-old designated player is finally eligible to play in MLS and is expected to see action at Saputo Stadium.
That’s bad news for Toronto, whose backline has already conceded a league-worst 28 goals this season.
“He’s a guy that really good at stretching defences, because the runs that he makes along the line are very intelligent and he times his runs really well,” said Marsch.
Di Vaio, who will wear No. 9, also knows what to do around the net. He scored 142 goals in 342 Serie A games in Italy with Lazio, Bari, Salernitana, Parma, Juventus, Genoa and most recently Bologna.
“He’s very gifted in terms of different ways to finish plays, of setting up plays. His eye for scoring goals and setting up attacking plays makes him unique and different,” added Marsch.
Story continues below
Di Vaio’s arrival is timely for the Impact, who have lost fellow Italian striker Bernardo Corradi to a knee injury sustained in training. Montreal is also without influential Italian defender Matteo Ferrari and there are injury question marks around forward Andrew Wenger (hamstring) and defender Nelson Rivas (abdominal strain).
Marsch can count on the offensive skills of Brazilian playmaker Felipe and American defensive midfielder Collen Warner.
For Mariner, the derby match in Montreal is another challenging away match.
Since taking over for the departed Aron Winter, the former English international is 0-1-2 and has seen his team settle for 3-3 and 2-2 ties after throwing away leads in Houston and against New England. He opened his tenure with a 2-0 loss in Kansas City.
Wednesday marks the fourth meeting between Montreal and Toronto this season in what has quickly become a fierce rivalry.
The Impact won the previous league encounter 2-1 at home in April but the next month saw Toronto knock Montreal out of the Amway Canadian Championship 2-0 on aggregate.
In the second leg of that cup encounter, a 2-0 win in Toronto. Marsch had to be separated from then Toronto assistant Bob De Klerk at the final whistle.
The Montreal coach declined to discuss the incident after that game and was gracious towards his opposition prior to this week’s encounter.
“I think they’re much better than their record and I think they’ve played quite well lately,” he said.
Mariner sees positives for his team but says they have to put 90 minutes-plus together in a game.
“Seventy-five, even 93 and 30 seconds isn’t good enough in this league,” he said, mindful of the second-half stoppage goal conceded against New England.
The Toronto coach acknowledged Tuesday he is looking for help in defence.
“It’s pretty obvious that we need a boss back there. We need somebody that can control that backline.”
Canadian international Adrian Cann is currently rehabbing a minor knee injury while Jamaican international Dicoy Williams is coming back from major knee surgery. Canadian teenager Doneil Henry has been thrust into the starting lineup at 19 while English fullback Richard Eckersley is currently playing out of position at centre back.
“We have a problem at the centre of the defence,” said Mariner. “We’ve got a player in Doneil Henry who looks like he could go all the way. He’s got absolutely everything to be successful but he’s a young player … This is a very, very tough league for a kid to come into and play consistently well. He’s already gone past our expectations for this season.”
Montreal is also looking for the right mix at the back, having conceded 26 goals in 16 games.
“We’re continuing to try to figure out how to limit opportunities. And then when opportunities come, how to try and decrease the amount of goals we give up,” said Marsch. “It’s been an ongoing process. It’s been something we’ve been well aware of. From the beginning, we’ve talked about the fact that expansion teams give up a lot of goals.”
NOTES – Montreal is 2-0-0 at its new home, defeating Houston 4-2 and Seattle 4-1 … Ecuador winger Joao Plata will not travel with Toronto, still feeling the effects of a hamstring tweak … The three TFC players arrested last week in Houston for public intoxication – forwards Nick Soolsma and Luis Silva and defender Miguel Aceval, were slated to be part of the travel party to Montreal … Toronto has Italian left back Alberto Giulliatto, formerly with Treviso, on trial.